NEW YORK -- The Nationals are "actively" pursuing free-agent first baseman Derrek Lee, according to a baseball source, while another indicated that Lee is the club's top target to play the position. The Nationals are one of several clubs interested in Lee's services.
If they are able to sign Lee, the Nationals would get a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman and a leader on and off the field. One person in the organization said Lee "is a character guy."
Lee could also provide power in the middle of the lineup. This season, Lee played for the Cubs and Braves and hit .260 with 19 home runs and 80 RBIs. He played most of the season with a thumb injury and had surgery after the Braves were eliminated by the Giants in the National League Division Series. Lee is expected to be 100 percent by Spring Training.
For weeks, it was reported that the Nats were looking for a left-handed bat to replace Adam Dunn. Entering the offseason, their top target was Carlos Pena, but he signed with the Cubs during the Winter Meetings. It was then assumed that Adam LaRoche would be Washington's next target, but talks don't appear to be serious between the two parties.
On Thursday, there were reports that LaRoche was close to signing with the Orioles, but a source said that wasn't the case.
If they are unable to sign Lee or LaRoche, the Nationals may consider Casey Kotchman, an above average defensive first baseman, but limited with the bat.
This season, Kotchman played for the Mariners and hit .217 with nine home runs and 51 RBIs. He is best known for his years with the Angels. In 2007, he hit .296 with 11 home runs and 68 RBIs.
During his seven-year career, Kotchman has made nine errors in 4,875 chances.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.